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The week that was

* Tours updates

* Swartberg Tour report back

* Old Postal Route closed

* Great South Africans 

* South African cities

* Podcast

* Pass of the Week

* Words of wisdom


Trips & Tours (2020)

Atlantis Sand Training Day - 13th December (4 tickets available).

Book online

We have a wonderful tour programme lined up for 2021. Some of our popular tours will be repeated and some news ones are being created. We've listened to YOUR suggestions. The new tours will be published soon.


Swartberg Tour Report back

Day Zero: 19th October. Our rendezvous point for the start of the tour was the lovely Rotterdam Boutique Hotel. This old establishment has been lovingly restored and is located on a working cattle farm just outside the hamlet of Buffeljagsrivier, near Swellendam. A museum 'Die Waenhuis' is in close proximity to the Fraser-Jones suites with its burbling fountains and enormous rooms. We travel a lot, but those rooms were the size of a small house. 

We had 10 vehicles on the tour, including two non 4WD vehicles. We held our drivers briefing promptly at 1800 on the stoep of the old thatched restaurant to the sound of sprinklers and frogs, nicely topped off with the fragrance of lavender and freshly mowed grass.

After the driver's briefing, Andrew Fraser-Jones (the proprietor) took us over to the museum for a fascinating 20 minute talk covering the history of the area. Dinner was excellent and a strong northerly wind ensured everyone was tucked in nice and early ready for the first day of passes.

Day 1: 20th October. After a hearty farm breakfast, we managed to get the show on the road by 0900. Our first stop was at the so-called Sugar Bridge, just a few kilometres from the hotel. 

Mr Skirrow designed the bridge but died soon after, leaving the actual construction to Mr Atmore. Huge sandstone blocks were used for the piers and the bridge deck was solid teak salvaged from the shipwreck of the 'Robert' at the mouth of the Lourens River in 1847.

Portland cement was not available at that time in South Africa. Traditional local mortar was made from sand and lime but it took a long time to set to full strength, leaving the builders with concerns that the Buffeljagsrivier might flood during the construction phase and wash the new bridge away. So they imported gypsum from France but this set too quickly to allow the accurate placement of the sandstone blocks. To retard the setting time, household sugar was added as an admixture. Hence the bridge earned the nickname of the Sugar Bridge and opened to traffic in 1852. It did its job perfectly well for 101 years when the new road was opened in 1953. 

After a 1 km stint on the busy N2, we detoured off to visit the missionary village of Suurbraak. Our routing then took us up Moodies Pass (named after a magistrate in Heidelberg), then along a magnificent stretch of gravel road all along the foothills of the Langeberg which included the Boosmansbos Pass, Doringkraal Pass, Seekoeigat Pass and Wadrift Pass. The flowers were amazing along the route and we had just one slightly deep water crossing to contend with.

That was just the entree. We had another three major passes to drive. Next up was Gysmanshoek Pass. This pass has very comfortable gradients with only one steep section of about 2 km. The route follows a river valley and the fragrance of proteas and fynbos greets those who drive with their windows open. We took a break at the summit for some photos and tackled the descent.

Our first town stop was Ladismith and like so many places in South Africa, the closures of busineses due to the lockdown was a stark reminder of what our country still has to work through, before things can return to some semblance of normality. Instead of driving along the R62, we drove a picturesque gravel route around the northern end of Ladismith, known as the Hoekoe Valley. One of the interesting points of interest is Stanley's Light. A local gentleman walked up the mountain armed with plastic pipes, a bicycle wheel and dynamo. At the source of the spring near the summit, Oom Stanley built his little water mill which powers the dynamo which in turn lights the bulb in the bicycle lamp. It can be seen from the town at night and its brightness (or lack thereof) is a sure indicator of how much water is flowing down the mountain.

We also stopped in at the old Lutheran Mission Church at Amalienstein for photos and then arrived at the start of one of the main attractions for the day - Seweweekspoort. Just as one enters the poort from the southern side, a small road leads away to the right. It terminates 2 km later at the Tierkloof Dam, which is the main water supply to Zoar and Amalienstein. Its a narrow, deep dam that holds back 45,000 cu.m of fresh water with wall height of 17m.

We normally stop under the dam wall and enjoy a lunch break, but the authorities have since decided to padlock the gate. This is no doubt due to bad behaviour by certain individuals. What a pity. There is a large flat area just before the gate, which can accommodate ten or more vehicles, so we made good use of that.

Seweweekspoort never disappoints, but driving it after 1500 on a sunny day provides lots of glare from the front and does not show off its beauty to maximum effect. We always make provision for this and ensure that we when we drive back through the poort, it is in the morning with the light from behind.

Our last pass of the day was Bosluiskloof. Every time we take guests down this pass, there is always a sense of disbelief at the raw and rugged nature of this road and the achingly dry valley it provides access to.

We arrived right on schedule, ready to enjoy the excellent hospitality at Bosch Luys Kloof lodge. A magnificent Karoo sunset provided a perfect setting for happy hour on the pool deck with a warm and windless evening. The food at the lodge is very good and our band of travellers hit the sack tired and happy, looking forward to the next day, which was a 'free' day to be spent as they wished inside the reserve. More on that next week.

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was....

* Tours Updates

* Swartberg Tour summary

* Ben 10 V3 Tour - Day 5 / Finale

* Great South Africans - Series #6

* Cities of South Africa - Series #7

* Podcast - A day with the vultures

* Pass of the Week

* Words of wisdom


Trips & Tours


Wild Coast Adventure Tour - 12th to 21st November (Fully booked) 

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour - 23rd to 25th November (5 tickets available)

Atlantis Sand Training Day - 13th December (4 tickets available).

Book online

We are working on our program for next year and will publish dates of the new tours as soon as we have finalised matters.


Swartberg Tour - Report back

This thoroughly enjoyable tour deserves a detailed story on its own, which will take place over the next few weeks, but here is a short summary. The single most impressive item on this tour was the astonishing volume and variety of wild-flowers. The weather ranged from distinctly cool on the first day to a blistering 51C in Prince Albert on the 3rd day. The mercury dropped to 35C by 10 pm that night,

The day we visited the Gamkaskloof (Die Hel) was achingly painful to see the deeply wooded valley left in a charred and ashen state with no wildlife or birds present. The remaining family at Fonteinplaas are still there, licking their wounds and trying to rise above the double tragedy of the fire and Covid 19. Annatjie Joubert was there in person and spoke to us about the day of the fire - Christmas Day 2019 - when the valley caught fire and they still don't know how is started. All their guest cottages and the campsite went up in flames. Her son was standing on the roof wetting down the thatch of the restaurant as the flames raged around them. And finally it was time to stand on the lawn and pray. Suddenly there was a change in wind direction and the flames retreated up towards Elands Pass. Their home and the restaurant were spared.

Klipspringer family commonly seen on the road to Die Hel / Photo: Marius KrijtPlease go and visit. Take in the ashes and devastation. Have a meal and a drink there. If ever there was a family that needs our collective support, it is there in Die Hel. They have rebuilt three of the cottages as well as the campsite already. These are good South African people that need our support. More news next week.

 

Ben 10 V3 Tour - Day 5 (Finale)

After the rest day on the Sunday, we had a long day ahead of us which promised lots of action. The weather was perfect and our convoy left base at 08.30 sharp. Our routing took us along the R393 northwards over the Fetcani Pass. We took the shortcut to Rhodes over the Bokspruit Pass and arrived at Rhodes within an hour, where we paid a visit to the Rhodes Hotel, which is busy being revamped in preparation for the new grand opening.

The old hotel is an interesting place packed with antiques and one of the nicest pubs I've seen in a long time. We'll keep you posted on developments via these newsletters. It will certainly add a big attraction to anyone wanting to visit the village, which was hammered by a lack of tourism during lockdown.

Our first challenge pass of the day was Naude's Nek Pass. We stopped at the Naude memorial site at the foot of the pass to appreciate the fantastic work of the Naude family and their influence on the area, not least of which is the fabulous pass that they were instrumental in building. When one considers that the farmers had no education in terms of engineering, the gradients on the pass are actually very comfortable. 

[Read more....]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* Trips & Tours

* Ben 10 V3 Tour Day 4 (Series)

* Great South Africans (#5 Series)

* South African Cities (#6 Series)

* Pass of the Week

* Words of Wisdom


Trips & Tours

Swartberg 2020 Tour: As you read this newsletter our tour group will be winding our way through the beautiful Swartberg range. Our Swartberg tours are always popular, so if you missed out on this one, we will be repeating it again in 2021.

Mpumalanga Panorama Tour: Bookings closed

Wild Coast Tour: Fully Booked

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour: 5 places open

Atlantis Sand Training Day: 4 places left.

Book your tour online


Ben 10 V3 Tour Report Back (Day 4)

All or previous Ben 10 Tours were run over 4 days. For the 2020 version we decided to build a spare (contingency) day into the programme in case of bad weather or vehicle breakdowns. We had a loose Plan B plan for this day, in case everything was running smoothly. As things turned out, for most of our guests, the spare day delivered a fantastic adventure.

Geudeon van Zyl is the father of the Ria Reabow, owner of the Mountain Shadows Hotel, which we use as our base for these tours. Geudeon, who is a cattle farmer both locally and in the Free State, happened to be visiting during the time of our tour, and offered to "show us around"- and what a day it turned out to be. 

Some of our guests opted out for the day and took a drive through to Rhodes to check out the local cemetery (a historical hobby of theirs), whilst others revisited their old family farms in the Elliot area. We were minus 3 vehicles for our little excursion. We departed promptly at 08.30 heading for a tall peak visible from the hotel called Dawid se Kop, which stands a respectable 2515m tall and is frequently snow capped in winter. 

Looking at the peak from the southern perspective, it seemed impossible to get up those vertical krantzes, but Geudeon guided us around to the northern side of the peak, all the while regaling us over the radios with fascinating snippets about water arteries in the mountains and the finer points of sheep and cattle farming. We crossed two private farms, which our guide for the day had gone to some trouble to collect keys and permission to cross private land.

[Read more...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* Trips & Tours update

* Ben 10 V3 Tour Day 3 (Series)

* Great South Africans (Series - #4)

* South African Cities (Series #5)

* Podcast

* Pass of the Week

* Words of Wisdom


Trips & Tours

Mpumalanga Panorama Tour (26th to 30th October) - There are still a few tickets available for this wonderful tour taking in the historic towns and villages as well as the beautiful vistas along the Drakensberg Escarpment. Click here for more info & online bookings.

Wild Coast Tour (12th to 21st November) - Fully booked

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour (23rd to 25th November) Enjoy a leisurely and very affordable tour along the Mpumalanga Highveld guided by Johan Badenhorst. Click here for more info and online bookings.

Atlantis Sand Driving Course (13th December) - Join us for a fun day at Atlantis Dunes, north of Cape Town, as we teach you the fundamentals of soft sand driving. This is the 3rd module of our training programme. Click here to book.

 

Ben 10 V3 Tour report back: (Series - #3)

Friday 26th September: After two back to back tough driving days, we decided to slot in the easiest day of the tour to give our guests a bit of a break. After the usual slap-up breakfast at Mountain Shadows Hotel, we got the convoy on the move heading NNE to Barkly East and an opportunity to top up on fuel. The R58 along this stretch is a pleasure to drive and at 80 kph, there's time to take in all the fabulous scenery and of course there are a number of passes along the way - like the Kraai River Pass, Grondnek and Benjaminshoogte. 

Our route for the day was an anti-clockwise circular route taking in Jouberts Pass, Otto du Plessis Pass and the timeless Barkly Pass for the second time on the tour. Just before reaching Benjaminshoogte (where a number of the old railway reverses are located), we took the long, but scenic gravel alternative to Lady Grey via Joubert's Pass. This lovely drive offers magnificent scenery via a number of old farms, where the Lombardi poplars stand tall against the blue backdrop of towering mountains, where crystal clear streams offer some of the finest fly-fishing in South Africa and where vultures patrol the craggy cliffs for a morsel of food.

There are a number of interesting and graphic road signs along this road - like Kar Wegspoel Drif. Apparently one of the local farmers and his wife got caught in a flash flood coming home after a day's revelling in Lady Grey and just manged to escape out of their vehicle, before it washed away down the stream. There's another gulley marked 'Car Sump Drift' and one look at the sharp entry angle into the concreted drift easily tells the story that more than one motorist has damaged a sump at this innocuous spot.

The road meanders through valleys, crossing rivers, heading generally northwards, but at the 20 km mark there is an abrupt change of direction into the west and this also marks the start of the eastern climb up Joubert's Pass. This approach is actually quite gentle with fairly easy gradients and the road is mostly in a reasonable condition. 

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* Trips & Tours

* Ben 10 Tour Day 2 Report back (Series #2)

* Great South Africans (Series #2)

* South African cities (Series #3)

* Podcast

* Pass of the Week

* Words of Wisdom


Trips & Tours

Swartberg 2020 Tour (19th to 24th October) - All the participants are busy packing for this brand new version of our popular Swartberg Tour. It remains fully booked with no cancellations.

Mpumalanga Panorama Tour (26th to 30th October) - There are still a few tickets available for this wonderful tour taking in the historic towns and villages as well as the beautiful vistas along the Drakensberg Escarpment. Click here for more info & online bookings.

Wild Coast Tour (12th to 21st November) - Fully booked

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour (23rd to 25th November) Enjoy a leisurely and very affordable tour along the Mpumalanga Highveld guided by Johan Badenhorst. Click here for more info and online bookings.

Atlantis Sand Driving Course (13th December) - Join us for a fun day at Atlantis Dunes, north of Cape Town, as we teach you the fundamentals of soft sand driving. This is the 3rd module of our training programme. Click here to book.

Photography Tour: We are working with a photographer in putting together a tour which will be focussed (pun intended) on amateur photographers who are keen on learning how to improve their landscape photography. We are still working on the details, but the tour will include mountain pass driving as part of the package. We will publish more information as soon as we have finalised matters. Let us know per email if you would be interested on such a tour. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 


Ben 10 V3 Tour - Report back

Day 2: The weather forecast for Friday 25th September indicated very strong winds of 90 kph for our area. The nature of mountain passes are such that at the necks where the passes reach the highest point, the wind strength can often be much higher than the forecasted speed. We selected another tough route for the day which often means arriving back at base in the dark. It is a challenge, after all, and part of the adventure is having to deal with the hard yards.

We left the Mountain Shadows Hotel promptly at 08.30 bound for Barkly East where a number of our drivers wanted to top up their tanks, and especially the Jimny's which have a nominal rage of 400 km. Once regrouped we rumbled out of Barkly East and soon turned right towards Loch Bridge. The bridge was completed in 1893 by Joseph Newey (who was responsible for all the sandstone bridges in the area, most of which are still standing firmly) and is one of the last single width stone bridges still in daily use in South Africa.

Photos and videos done, we drove up the Tierkrans Pass and paused halfway up to admire the rail reverses. These clever reverse systems work much like the switchbacks on a hiking trail, with the exception that the train would go forward down one section, then reverse down the next, until it reached the valley floor or plateau. The concept was put forward by a local German woman from Barkly East, who reasoned that the construction of the reverses had to be much cheaper than building tunnels and bridges. It remains one of only three such systems in the world, the others being in Canada and China. 

[Read more...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* Trips & Tours

* Ben 10 V3 Tour report back 

* Great South Africans

* South African Cities

* Pass of the week

* Words of Wisdom


Trips and Tours

We have just arrived back from our most successful Ben 10 Eco Challenge ever. There is so much to write about that we have decided to break it up into five weekly instalments covering one day at a time. Read more lower down.

The next tour is the Swartberg Tour from the 19th to the 24th October, We have had one cancellation, so if you're looking to get out into the mountains for a fabulous tour through all the best parts of the Swartberg range, then grab the last open ticket here: SWARTBERG TOUR INFO AND ONLINE BOOKINGS.

 Mpumalanga Panorama Tour: 26th to 30th October - 3 tickets left. Don't miss out on our inaugural joint venture tour with Johan Badenhorst. This tour (which is suitable for high clearance 4x2 vehicles as well as soft roaders) includes some well known passes plus some you've probably never driven before. Passes include Crossroads, Wilgekraal, Chom se Hoogte, De Beers Nek, Patata Nek, Schoemanskloof, Wonderkloof, Houtbosloop, Sudwalaskraal, Sudwala, Hendriksdal, Koffiehoogte, Mac Mac, Burgers, Bonnet, Robbers, Caspersnek, Blyderivier Poort, Kowyns, Graskop Concrete Road (optional), Klipkraal, Bergvliet, Kiepersol, Bakenkop, Long Tom, Masjiennek & Santa. Get full info and pricing as well as online booking here: MPUMALANGA PANORAMA TOUR

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour - A shorter 'closer to home' tour for all our mountain pass followers up on the reef offers three days of fascinating travel around the smaller villages and interesting towns of the Highveld and will include the following passes:  Jantjieshoek, Kastrolnek, Kempslus, Knights, Burgers, Hattingshoogte, Barrowfield, Mollshoogte, Ossewakop (optional), De Jagersnek, Laingsnek, Ingogo Heights, Brinkshoogte, Schuinshoogte (optional), Oom Louis se Hoogte, Kwaggasnek & Majubanek. This tour (which is suitable for high clearance 4x2 vehicles as well as soft roaders) lasts for 3 days and represents excellent value for money. Read more and online bookings here: MPUMALANGA HIGHVELD TOUR

Wild Coast Tour: 12th to 21st November - Fully Booked.

MPSA Atlantis Sand Training Day - We are planning this one day course for Sunday 13th December. Bookings should open this weekend. If you would like to attend this course it will stand you in good stead how to cope in soft sand conditions.

Tours for 2021: During December we wil be mapping out our tours for 2021. In the planning melting pot we have the following tours in mind:

Bedrogfontein Tour

Ben 10 Wet & Wild Tour

Drakensberg Ride the Dragon Tour

Kouga Baviaanskloof Tour

Richtersveld Tour

Namaqualand Tour

Wild Coast Tour

Tankwa Tour

Snow Patrol Tour

Mpumalanga Gravel Tour

Lesotho/Sani Tour

3 x Training Day Tours: Introduction to 4WD driving; Steep ascents/descents and rock crawling; safe recoveries; sand & mud driving.


Ben 10 V3 Tour Report back:

This was our first long tour post-Covid and we were all relishing the opportunity to get out into the mountains and do what we love doing - sharing our passion for mountain passes with like minded guests.

September 23rd: All guests arrived timeously at the Mountain Shadows Hotel during the afternoon of Wednesday 23rd Sep as radios were fitted and tyre deflation got underway. The driver's briefing took place punctually at 1800 where the group were briefed on the hard yards that were to follow over the next 5 days. With good warm weather forecast for the 24th September, we broke the news that we would be tackling Bastervoetpad Pass on the first day (normally we leave it for the end as confidence is built during the preceding days). The briefing was followed by Happy Hour and a lovely three course meal that the hotel is famous for. 
[Read more lower down...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* Trips & Tours

* Great South Africans

* Cities of South Africa

* Pass of the Week

* Words of wisdom

 

Trips & Tours

Swartberg Tour 2020 (19-25 October)
We have just had a cancellation come in for this tour. There is 1 place available. More information, pricing and online bookings on this link: SWARTBERG TOUR 

Wolvenberg 4x4 Training did not disappoint as we took the second half of the trainees up the mountain to learn module 1 of offroad driving skills. With a forecast of rain we went well prepared and slightly modified the format that we used the previous week. We had a full turnout of 10 vehicles which included Jimnys, Fortuners, Land Cruisers, Jeeps and Pajeros.

The weather was on the edge but the rain mercifully held off for most of the tour. Our guests, who were all a little tentative at the start ended the day with big smiles, having been liberated into the world of responsible offroading.

We are working on a sand driving course for beginners which will be held at Atlantis Dunes. We anticipate running this 1 day tour during December. Our driver training modules will be expanded to include rock, stone, sand and mud. When all four modules are completed, drivers should be competent.

 Mpumalanga Panorama Tour - Bookings for the tour are coming in with just 3 tickets left. Don't miss out on our inaugural joint venture tour with Johan Badenhorst. This tour (which is suitable for high clearance 4x2 vehicles as well as soft roaders) includes some well known passes plus some you've probably never driven before. Passes include Crossroads, Wilgekraal, Chom se Hoogte, De Beers Nek, Patata Nek, Schoemanskloof, Wonderkloof, Houtbosloop, Sudwalaskraal, Sudwala, Hendriksdal, Koffiehoogte, Mac Mac, Burgers, Bonnet, Robbers, Caspersnek, Blyderivier Poort, Kowyns, Graskop Concrete Road (optional), Klipkraal, Bergvliet, Kiepersol, Bakenkop, Long Tom, Masjiennek & Santa. Get full info and pricing as well as online booking here: MPUMALANGA PANORAMA TOUR

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour - A shorter 'closer to home' tour for all our mountain pass followers up on the reef offers three days of fascinating travel around the smaller villages and interesting towns of the Highveld and will include the following passes:  Jantjieshoek, Kastrolnek, Kempslus, Knights, Burgers, Hattingshoogte, Barrowfield, Mollshoogte, Ossewakop (optional), De Jagersnek, Laingsnek, Ingogo Heights, Brinkshoogte, Schuinshoogte (optional), Oom Louis se Hoogte, Kwaggasnek & Majubanek. This tour (which is suitable for high clearance 4x2 vehicles as well as soft roaders) lasts for 3 days and represents excellent value for money. Read more and online bookings here: MPUMALANGA HIGHVELD TOUR

 

Ben 10 V3 Tour

When you read this newsletter, we will be at the summit of the Barkly Pass near Elliot, starting our first day of the Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3. This will be our first cross-provincial border tour since lockdown started and we are all really excited about being up in the mountains again with a new group of people who will soon be earning their Ben 10 badges. We will report back on progress via our FaceBook page.

We took a call from one of the owners of Tiffindell this morning and absorbed the heartbreaking story of how Covid 19 killed their business by starving the cash flow. It came at the worst possible time, just before the winter season started. Lew Campbell has told us that they are working hard at reopening the ski resort in the near future. In the meantime, the Ben MacDhui Pass remains closed. Anyone who has entered the Ben 10 Eco Challenge will still receive their stripes.

Travelling up to Elliot via Graaff Reinet we were distressed to learn that our favourite restaurant in Graaff Reinet, called POLKA, has closed down. Yet another small business that just could not survive the lockdown. Covid 19 has well and truly given the South African hospitailty industry a severe beating. One must ask the question and say: "Was it really worth it?"


Great South Africans (New Series)

Thamsanqa Kambule (15 January 1921 – 7 August 2009) was a South African Mathematician and Educator. He was the first black professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, and was the first black person to be awarded honorary membership to the Actuarial Society of South Africa. He was awarded the Order of the Baobab in 2002 for his services to mathematics education.

Thamsanqa Kambule

Kambule was born in Aliwal North.His mother died when he was 18 months old, and his aunt was responsible for raising him. He did not attend school until he was 11 years old, when he joined Anglican St Peter's School in Johannesburg. He completed a Teachers Diploma at Adams College in 1946 and a Bachelor's degree at the University of South Africa in 1954.

Kambule taught in Zambia, Malawi as well as several schools in South Africa before being appointed Principal of Orlando High School in Soweto in 1958. He campaigned to ensure the children had the best education possible, despite the restrictions of the Bantu Education Act, 1953. Orlando High School had a library named after Robert Birley, a visiting professor at the University of the Witwatersrand. He led the Rand Bursary Fund, a support program that provided scholarships for pupils in need. The fund allowed more than 1,000 students to complete high school. His former pupils included Desmond Tutu and Jackie Selebi. 

In 1978 he joined the University of the Witwatersrand, where he became the first black professor. He published a series of maths textbooks for non-specialist teachers. He retired in 1976 and promptly became the Principal of O R T Step College of Technology. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1997 and a doctorate of education in 2006. In 2002 he was awarded the Order of the Baobab from Thabo Mbeki. He became known as The Rock for his transparent principles.

Kambule died on 7 August 2009.  [Source - Wikipedia]


South African cities - 2. Piermaritzburg

Pietermaritzburg  is the capital and second-largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was founded in 1838. Its Zulu name is umGungundlovu is. Pietermaritzburg is popularly called Maritzburg in Afrikaans, English and Zulu alike, and often informally abbreviated to PMB. It is a regionally important industrial hub, producing aluminium, timber and dairy products. The public sector is a major employer in the city due to the local, district and provincial governments being located here.

Published in Mountain Passes News

 The week that was

* Bain's Kloof rock versus heavy duty truck

* Trips & Tours

* Wolvenberg 4x4 Training Tour report back

* Tiffindell Ski Resort and Ben MacDhui Pass closed

* Cities of South Africa (New!)

* Podcast (Cogmanskloof Part 2)

* Pass of the week

* New passes this week

* Words of wisdom


 Stuck between a rock and a hard place

There can only be one explanation (maybe 2) / Photo: NARI Media

The driver of large truck had some explaining to do to his employer when he took this huge vehicle along Bain's Kloof Pass, ignoring the height warning chains and multiple height restriction signs and firmly jammed his truck under the historic overhanging rock known as Dacre's Pulpit, which has a height restriction of just 3.8m.

He caused a traffic jam of note as the pass had to be closed at either end for a long time as traffic officials and recovery crews struggled to untangle the wreckage. The truck came off second best and fortunately the pulpit remains firmly in place.

It does beg the question to be answered: 'How does a person who is a qualified heavy duty truck driver, who is entrusted with a vehicle worth several million Rand, do something as utterly stupid as this'.

This incident comes just ahead of the pass being closed for 18 months for repairs and resurfacing.


Trips & Tours

20th September - Wolvenberg 4x4 Training Tour (4 tickets left)

24th to 28th September - Ben 10 Eco Challenge (Fully booked)

19th - 25th October - Swartberg 2020 Tour (Fully booked)

26th - 30th October - Mpumalanga Panorama Tour (4 tickets left)

12th - 21st November - Wild Coast Tour (Fully booked)

23rd - 25th November - Mpumalanga Highveld Tour (6 tickets left)


Tiffindell Ski Resort closed

Tiffindel Ski Resort is closed. This affects anyone wanting to do the Ben 10 Eco Challenge. We have had confirmation from the owner, Lew Campbell, that the property is out of bounds to the public. Effectively this means that the Ben MacDhui pass (3001m) - the highest motorable pass in South Africa, is closed to the public until further notice. We have posted an advisory on the Ben 10 Entries page as well as the relevant pass page.

Once the dust has settled and we have more accurate information regarding the ski resort's future, we will keep you informed. There are several options on the table of how we will deal with the Eco Challenge which has grown to become the most popular offroad challenge in South Africa and we will most definitely come up with an innovative plan to keep it going.

 

 Wolvenberg 4x4 Training Tour report back.

This fully booked tour was scheduled to take place on Sunday 13th September, but a severe weather warning forced us to rethink the logistics in favour of safety. We moved the date one day earlier, but only some of the guests could make it, so we offered the tour to be repeated on Sunday 20th September for those that couldn't make the earlier date. The result was that we had a small compact convoy of 6 vehicles and beautiful warm weather, which is always a game changer on the enjoyment meter.

In our group, we had two brand new Jimnys and two Fortuners, plus our sweep guide in a VW Amarok and myself in the Land Cruiser. The first problem we encountered was that both the Fortuners (automatics), despite having selected 4WD low range, were emitting warning beeps. It took a little while and a reference in the handbook to figure out what the problem was. It is necessary to come to a complete stop and put the vehicle into neutral before selecting 4WD LR. As soon as we figured that out both vehicles were fine. They simply stopped and repeated the procedure as per the handbook. Thanks to Andrew Hepburn for the heads up.

[Read more...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was

* The new normal

* Wildflowers

* Branding

* Road Signs

* Trips & Tours Updates

* Gawie se Water (Part 2)

* Podcast (History of Cogmanskloof)

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom/

 

Returning to normal

So what is normal? This wildly bizarre year has been a very unusual and tough year both financially (unless you nailed a PPE supplies tender!) and emotionally and yet, as the dust begins to settle there are so many questions unanswered and so many predictions by the best experts in the world that were completely wrong.

What the pandemic has done is brought many of us back to earth with a bang with the realization of just how fragile life is. It gave us time to be introspective.

One of the most difficult things at our HQ in Cape Town was striving to remain positive, amidst the overwhelming fear mongering news in the mainstream media, but somehow that persistence seemed to pay off with MPSA having come out of the lockdown much stronger than before. We expanded our social media following in a most dynamic way with an expected 50,000 followers to be reached by the end of September.

Trips & Tours Update

20th September - Wolvenberg 4x4 Training & Tour (4 places left) We have split this tour over two separate days Saturday 12th September & Sunday 20th September due to a bad weather warning for the original date (13th Sep). We therefore have 5 places available for this Saturday and 4 spaces for the 20th September. Anyone wanting to book for this Saturday should contact us directly on 083 658 8888 or on email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as we will have to do a manual booking. Bookings for the 20th Sep can be done via our online system on the link above.

23rd - 28th September - Ben 10 Eco Challenge V3 Tour (Fully booked)

19th - 25th October - Swartberg 2020 Tour (Fully booked)

26th - 30th October - Mpumalanga Panorama Tour (4 tickets left)

12th - 21st November - Wild Coast Tour (Fully booked)

23rd - 25th November - Mpumalanga Highveld Tour (6 tickets left)

Wildflowers in profusion

This year has produced some of the finest wildflower displays in decades. From Posberg all the way up to Springbok and all over Namaqualand the displays have been phenomenal, but thanks to lockdown only a few have been able to enjoy the spectacle

Branding

With the acquisition of Cape Mountain Passes came the distinctive and instantly recognizable logo (and approved by the Western Cape Government). Over the next few weeks the adoption of this logo will become evident across all communication levels, including our vehicle branding, signage and written communications. 

The new logo which will be incorporated into our branding

Road Signs

Steady progress is being made on the refurbishment of 160 road signs that came with the takeover of the Cape Mountain Passes project. We have effectively used our wide social media reach to get the message across that the only place that's OK to put a sticker, is on your own property. On our sign fixing trip last Friday we published before and after photos of the Middelberg Pass summit sign, as well as detailed photos of every sticker on the signboard. Each of those will be systematically contacted with a request to desist and encourage others from the bad habit (which many people seem to think is the norm these days) We appreciate the overwhelming support of our subscribers and followers. Some of even offered to do the job for us or accompany us. That is a beautiful thing!

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Published in Mountain Passes News

The week that was:

* Severe weather

* Tiffindell Ski Resort 

* Trips & Tours Update

* Gawie se water

* Witterivier Tragedy

* Podcast (Penhoek Pass)

* Pass of the week

* Words of wisdom


 

Wild Weather

No one can deny that 2020 has been a very different year. It has shaped eveyones life in some form or the other. Some have suffered badly, whilst others have survived and even improved their businesses. The winter weather has broken all sorts of records with several towns in KZN having set new minimum temperature records. The drought which gripped the Western Cape for over 3 years has finally been broken. Dams are overflowing and rivers are running strong and clean from all the snowmelt. 

We have today received news of the temporary closure of the Tiffindell Ski Resort. Decisions will be made towards the end of September as to new opening dates. This affects anyone wanting to do the Ben 10 Eco Challenge as the boom across the road giving access to the Ben MacDhui Pass is closed and locked.

We are investigating all our options in terms of the rules for the Ben 10 Eco Challenge. In the current state it is not possible to complete the challenge without access to the pass. Anyone who has planned to do the challenge in the next 60 days should make contact with us, with respect to getting keys to unlock the boom. 

We will be there in person running our Ben 10 V3 Tour from the 23rd to 28th September and will be able to report back more accurately after that time.


Trips & Tours Update

Wolvenberg 4x4 Training & Tour 13th September (1 ticket left)

Ben 10 V3 Tour - 23 - 28 September - Fully booked

Swartberg Tour - 19 - 25 October - Fully booked

Mpumalanga Panorama Tour 26 - 30 October (4 tickets left) 

Wild Coast Tour -  12 - 21 November - Fully booked

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour 23 - 25 November (7 tickets left)

 

Gawie se water


Our focus last week on the imminent refurbishment of Bain's Kloof Pass near Wellington, had me digging around in our archives for a story sent in by Graham Katzenellenbogen (who insists that one bastion of the Castle of Good Hope was not named after him!)

When driving up the pass from the Wellington side about 2 km before the summit, a small clear stream of perennial water drops down the mountain and under the road. It's a popular spot set amongst shady trees where cyclists stop to fill their water bottles with the clean pure water. A small signboard announces the stream as "Gawie se water"

The owner of the old Grand Hotel in Ceres in the 1940s through to 1960s was Jock Levin.  The legend goes that Jock and the whisky-loving fraternity instructed those in their district visiting Scotland, not to return home without a unique privately stilled bottle of whisky from the Scottish highlands and unobtainable here.

[Read more...]

Published in Mountain Passes News

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Mountain Passes South Africa

Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
 

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
 

Master Orientation Map

Master Orientation Map We are as passionate about maps as we are about mountain passes. A good map is a thing of beauty that can transport you into the mists of time or get your sense of adventure churning. It is a place to make discoveries about deserts and seas, mountains and lakes; of roads leading into places you have not been before; a place to pore over holiday destinations or weekend camping trips. A map is your window to the world.

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